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Thanksgiving without butter? Oy.

I have to cook kosher this year.

I know enough to know what to ask, and my turkey provider, utensils, kitchen, plates, and serving implements have all been cleared by my Kosher guests.

But, of course, I can't use butter to grease up my bird.

What's a hospitable cook who can't stand the idea of not using butter to do?

Will any oil do? Is margarine the way to go (I hate that stuff)? Other ideas?

I can't even figure out what to Google that isn't just about what makes a turkey kosher and whether to brine it.


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  1. I have used Canola oil relying on the rub to add flavor -

    1. I'd suggest reading the thread of "unnatural pareve deserts" since there is a lot of suggestion on what to use in baking (various soy margerines that are trans fat-free).

      You need to begin with "letting-go". Your bird will taste different this year. Not bad, but different because you aren't using butter.

      Good Luck

      1. Le Marais used to sell tubs of kosher duck fat online. You can give them a call and see if they'll ship it. Should be a flavorful substitute.

        1. Just use Pareve margarine or Crisco. My family has been doing that for years. No complaints here.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kate is always hungry

            Same here. Been using Fleishman's parve margarine for years. Works fine.

          2. My biggest advice is to check the margarine carefully for a "pareve" marking. Not all margarines are pareve - you'd be suprised how many are dairy. I use Mother's and find it works well. Good luck and don't stress too much :)

            3 Replies
            1. re: mglass

              Yes, the label must be checked carefully. There is only one stick margarine I can find that is marked OU Pareve, the Fleishman's unsalted. Everything else in my local stores is OU D.

              1. re: runtexas

                You may be able to find truly parve margarine in Health Food-type stores, if there are any in your area.

                1. re: runtexas

                  Smart Balance and Earth Balance also make pareve margarine products.

              2. Hi BB,

                First of all, thanks for taking on the challenge of making your Thanksgiving Kosher! That is so nice of you, and I am sure your family/friends/guests will really appreciate your efforts.

                Second, don't worry about the flavor! You will be amazed by how great the kosher turkey tastes without any effort at all. The kashering process involves brining (soaking and salting is part of what makes it kosher) so you will already have a moist bird. You don't need margarine (I NEVER USE because of the trans fats - please stay away from this stuff, as it is terrible for your body) or anything more than a little olive oil to rub on the skin.

                Try this recipe out and see how it works out:
                Make a paste of a few tablespoons of olive oil, some good quality and FRESH garam masala, kosher salt, paprika, and fresh pepper (using organic herbs will send your taste buds into a tizzy, too!). Rub the paste thoroughly onto the bird, and into the cavity. Stuff the bird with a whole onion. This helps to keep it moist.

                Roast it in a pan according to the heat and timing instructions on the wrapper. (I only use Empire poultry - it tastes great, has a good track record in terms of labor relations, and is very reasonably priced.) Be sure to baste the bird with pan drippings several times.

                When the bird is finished, remove it from the pan to a carving board to rest. Add 1 cup of dry white wine (must be Kosher - this is crucial!) such as a chardonnay to the pan drippings and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Return the pan to the oven for another 20 minutes. Scrape the pan for any drippings that may still be attached to the pan, and pour the reduced sauce into a gravy boat. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you want a thicker gravy, you can add some corn or potato starch, but I like mine more liquid. If you want a darker sauce, add some paprika.

                Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

                3 Replies
                1. re: rebeccafriedman

                  Last night (11/16/2008) the manager at our local Trader Joe's confirmed that the fresh kosher turkeys sporting the Trader Joe's label are indeed Empire birds. They are priced at $2,29 per pound, which is less than the advertised price of frozen Empire turkeys at several local kosher and non-kosher supermarkets. He mentioned that this year the entire Trader Joe's company ordered twice as many kosher turkeys as last year, but he couldn't guarantee that there would be any left come Thanksgiving 2008.

                  1. re: midasgold

                    Since they can't guarantee its availability near thanksgiving, and buying it now and freezing it makes no sense (might as well but it frozen for less). I ask you Hounders, when would be the last day to buy it, put it in the frig, and cook it on thanksgiving and still consider it to be fresh?

                  2. just to add my 2 cents. the best tasting turkey I've ever made have been on the Ronco Showtime rotisseree (sp?) no extra ingrediants added . the self basting nature of the rotiseree gives the turkey a special flavor

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: berel

                      I must second that. Although I have the Jr version so I don't think it will fit a turkey, I use it for chickens. When I asked the people from Brachs what they put on their chickens to give them the excellent flavor of their bbq chickens, they told me nothing. So I wnet home and tried it. I took a chicken and simply washed it and put it in the Ronco till the juices stopped dripping and voila great tasting chicken!

                      1. re: MartyB

                        I also have the junior version, but I've managed to get a 15 lb turkey on there . yes it's great for chicken too, as well as roast beef and Pime ribs, probably the best kitchen appliance we ever invested in

                        1. re: berel

                          Great, I will try it too. What is the formula for turkey? I believe for chicken it said 15 minutes per pound. I use that as a starting point, but then pay attention to the drippings since I like it on the well done and crispy skin side.

                          1. re: MartyB

                            I even chew on cooking string that I cut off the rotiseree turkey, talk about flavor

                            15 minutes a lb + looking at the skin to see how crispy it is works for me too

                    2. Kosher turkey is easy once you have purchased the bird! After thoroughly cleaning (kosher birds have more pin feathers, etc. to remove) make a paste of olive oil, chopped garlic and dried rosemary. Rub in between meat and skin, on the inside of the cavity and on the outside of the bird. Quater some onions and granny smith apples and toss with dried rosemary and place in the bottom of the pan and inside the cavity. Cook as usual. For gravy, strain pan drippings, place in saucepot with 2 cups of cider, 1 tsp of poultry seasoning and 1 tbsp of cornstarched mixed with a quarter cup of hot water. Stir all ingredients until hot and thickened. Enjoy!

                      1. I use an Empire kosher bird in a roasting bag and it always turns out great, plus you don't have to baste. You can add whatever you want for flavoring, but don't need to grease the outside. Thanks.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bride of the Juggler

                          Best tasting turkey is deep fried in an electric fryer. 14lb turkey takes about 45/50 minutes.

                        2. I second the suggestion that you use Canola Oil. I find that it has a very "buttery" taste and it is my preferred "butter" substitute, even in baking. Margarines tend to have colorings and flavorings that will add subtle notes to your food that you will either love, or not care for. Canola is the least offensive. Also beware that most margarines have salt in them and kosher meat has been salted, so without practicing a few times, you may not know how much salt to add to your bird. May I suggest (to give you an idea) that you cook up a few carrots. Place some into a pan with a few drizzles of Canola oil and heat briefly. Then do similar with the other carrots and a teaspoon or so of a couple of brands of pareve margarine or shortening and taste them all. A drizzle of canola oil is terrific on corn too, if you intend to serve corn at your Thanksgiving meal.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: koshermasterchef

                            I find canola pretty tasteless myself, and tend to use olive oil as my butter replacement in cooking (margarine for baking).

                            1. re: GilaB

                              I agree with you and actually if you've ever tasted rendered, unsalted butter (which is essentially what will happen to the butter after it's been cooked on the bird for three hours), it's pretty tasteless too, except for the pleasant "oily" taste, which is why I recommended Canola to most closely approximate that "buttery" flavor and for the fact that it will stand up to the long cooking process. Olive oil, duck fat and the other suggestions all add a specific flavor to the Turkey, which is why I suggested the poster experiment before deciding on which one to use. I have a personal preference for duck fat, but it too has a distinctive flavor and has to be the distinctive flavor you're going for because it will never be "mistaken" for butter, nor does it impart a "buttery" flavor. Olive oil adds distinctive, recognizable tones too and while I love olive oil on many things, it just does not successfully stand up (flavor-wise) to a very long oven-cooking process. The reason I suggested carrots for the taste test is that carrots have a full-bodied and distinctive flavor of their own and anything added to them is tasted only as an additional layer of flavor, rather than changing how the carrots themselves taste, so it is one of the best ways to discern what flavor a particular oil or fat will add to something.

                          2. If you can get duck/goose fat that is the way to go hands down, ignore the other suggestions. Otherwise use chicken fat. If you can't go with an herb infused oil. I am sure it will be delicious.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: spacesasha

                              Chicken fat is delicious, but it will simply end up on the bottom of the pan, frying and flavoring the underneath of the bird as it has a very low melting point. If the OP decides to use chicken fat, a more frequent basting schedule should be followed. What's easier is to remove the fatty skin parts that are just inside the cavity of the bird, to gently lift the breast skin and to lay those fatty skin parts inside the lifted breast skin. They will stay there for the duration of the cooking process and slowly render. As they render, the fat will be trapped under the skin and take longer to drip into the bottom of the pan. This is my preferred method. Unfortunately, sometimes the butchers who prepare the birds have removed those parts from the turkey. This also works very successfully with chickens (assuming the butcher did not remove those fatty skin parts to make his own rendered chicken fat).